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Region faces 'diabesity' explosion by 2045: Study Filed on December 22, 2018 | Last updated on December 22, 2018 at 09.44 pm
Region faces diabesity explosion by 2045: Study

The report, which is part of the Arab Health Market Series, also highlighted the economic burden of diabetes in the region.

Altered eating patterns, more consumption of sugar and a sedentary lifestyle are going to cause a 'diabesity' explosion in the region by 2045, according to a new report.

A report by Colliers International, titled "Diabesity - Impact on the Mena Region", has revealed that the number of diabetic patients in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region is expected to increase by 110 per cent to 82 million by 2045, second only to Africa (156 per cent), significantly impacting mortality, productivity and healthcare expenditure.

According to the report, factors contributing to the 'diabesity' epidemic in the Gulf region include altered eating patterns due to increased income and urbanisation (only 38 per cent of the GCC population eats fresh fruit and vegetables); sedentary lifestyles (60 per cent of men and 73 per cent of women are physically inactive); barriers to a healthy diet and lesser emphasis on nutritional education, as well as the increased consumption of sugar and sugar substitutes (GCC countries represent a $8.4-billion soft drink market).

The report, which is part of the Arab Health Market Series, also highlighted the economic burden of diabetes in the region that reached $21.3 billion. It is expected to jump by 67 per cent to $35.5 billion by 2045.

Meanwhile, eight Middle Eastern countries - Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan and Lebanon - have the highest ratio of obesity among adults globally, with 27 per cent to 40 per cent of the total population affected.

Facing diabesity

Published ahead of Arab Health 2019, which is set to take place on January 28-31 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the latest research from Colliers International provides an in-depth analysis of the key factors impacting the diabesity epidemic - which refers to a twin occurrence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity - with a focus on the Mena region and its outlook.

The report also outlined a number of preventive measures being taken by governments to tackle the growing problem of diabesity.

For example, the UAE has developed a clear roadmap for combating and controlling diabesity. Though the challenges are still being faced in some areas such as lifestyle modification, physical inactivity and diet, government measures have led to a drop in the prevalence of diabetes in the UAE from 19.3 per cent in 2013 to 17.3 per cent in 2017.

Some of the current measures being carried out by the UAE government include the Abu Dhabi Children's Obesity Task Force, which plans to reduce obesity by increasing physical activity in children by 15 per cent and reduce the average body mass index by 15 per cent by 2020. A 50 per cent "sugar tax" had also been levied on soda and 100 per cent on energy drinks and tobacco products, in order to lower obesity and diabetes rates.

Ross Williams, exhibition director of Arab Health, said: "With health professionals and researchers considering 'diabesity' as potentially the greatest epidemic in human history, the advancement of communication technology, 'telehealth' and the application of artificial intelligence (AI) is now playing a critical role in the management of chronic illnesses. The economic and societal impact of the epidemic is a catalyst for the entire healthcare industry to come together to offer collective solutions to this global problem."

The Dubai Diabetes Centre is also studying the use of AI to detect diabetic retinopathy.

A 'virtual' expansion of the centre is under way, while a feasibility study is also being carried out to set up another centre to cater to the increasing number of patients.

Dr Ahmed bin Kalban, CEO of the specialised healthcare services sector at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said the multidisciplinary centre would undergo expansion services to enhance its capacity and cater to a larger number of patients. 

In 2017, the centre treated 972 new patients of which 4.82 per cent had Type 1 diabetes and 75.10 per cent had Type 2 diabetes. In 2018, the centre saw 862 patients.

"Diabetes is a disease that requires specialised multidisciplinary care. The number of existing patients has gone up considerably, causing a delay in getting new patient appointments. Expanding existing facilities will allow us to treat a higher number of new patients and help us provide the usual level of care at the same time," said Dr Kalban.

Tech tackles the epidemic

> The rise of wearables: It is becoming increasingly possible to track a patient's key parameters such as ECG, EKG, temperature, blood pressure, etc., through mobile apps, wearable devices or implanted devices

> The rise of 'tele' healthcare: Referred to as telehealth or telemedicine, the use of telecommunication and information technology to get a diagnosis and other healthcare services. Its explosive growth is fuelled by connectivity, convenience and lower costs.

> Artificial intelligence and machine learning: These technologies are being applied to create treatment plans. Applications are of immense benefit to overweight or obese and pre-diabetic or diabetic individuals, as these smart apps allow them to actively monitor their health and take risk-mitigating measures.



Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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